Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The White House is pushing hard for a small business stimulus bill. It would establish a $30 billion lending fund for community and smaller banks that lend to local businesses, and give $12 billion in tax breaks.
Alaska’s Democratic Senator Mark Begich tried to drum up support for it on the Senate floor last week.
Begich says as a small business owner he has an appreciation of what the assistance will mean to Alaska’s companies and small banks. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski says she likes the core of the bill, but not the add-ons included by the Democrats, like the $30 billion lending pot. She says it lacks oversight and accountability.
State officials are waiting to see whether the bill will get passed this week before the Senate adjourns. John Katz, director of the Governor’s Washington office, says Sean Parnell supports small business, but is waiting to see how things fall into place.
The head of the Small Business Administration, Karen Mills, says the bill will fund programs already in place that funnel money to small businesses throughout the country – including Alaska. Mills was in the state last July and visited small business development centers.
While Mills was in Alaska, she spoke at an Anchorage conference on 8-A government contracting. The program gives special opportunities to Alaska Native Corporations so they can secure government contracts. It’s come under scrutiny because the corporations can get no-bid federal contracts of any size.
Critics say the Native Corporations are getting too much of a leg-up, and are strong enough now that they don’t need it. The program is currently undergoing a rewrite, and may change so that the companies have to report back on how their shareholders are benefited by the contracts.
Mills says while they’re tightening oversight of the program, she defends it and says it does serve a valuable purpose.
The SBA’s rewrite of the 8-A program is now in review within the agency.
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